Lucinda Carney, CEO and Founder of Actus Software, discusses the importance of reassessing employee engagement strategies for a virtual workforce
Do you feel motivated and engaged to be part of your organisation in the past year? Or perhaps, has an abrupt shift to remote working left you feeling more disconnected than ever before? It may not have been the sort of wake-up call we all expected, but businesses everywhere should be using this transition period into a virtual and hybrid workforce as an opportunity to reassess their employee engagement strategies. In a remote environment, we must ask ourselves, how does this sudden change impact the visibility, development and internal mobility of key staff? And, as we reimagine the workforce of tomorrow, should we be considering opportunities for internal mobility as one of the most important tools for keeping our employees motivated?
Are your employees engaged with their role?
According to our recent research, an average of 1 in 4 new hires leave an organisation within the first 6 months. The reasons for this boil down to several areas; the role was not what they expected; they didn’t agree with the company culture; they didn’t work well with their colleagues or they saw no path for progression. The reality is that external recruitment has become far too regular and ingrained into the organisational culture that there is a real lack of established systems for internal development. As a result, leaders end up retaining expensive, yet unmotivated new hires. At the same time, existing employees can become easily unfocused if their skills are not being acknowledged, thus creating retention issues propelled further by companies hiring from competitors and vice versa.
If a silver lining can be found, the shift to a virtual workplace reignited the need to look deeper at the existing talent within our companies. With ‘hidden’ skills directly under our noise, we must now learn how to encourage and retain this talent.
Putting talent management first
It seems that too many businesses look elsewhere to fill new vacancies, so much so that fewer than 1 in 20 organisations initially look internally when filling a new position. From the off, this ignores that one of the best paths to motivating employees is to allow them to test themselves in new roles within the organisation they’re already working for. Think about the time and money spent putting into hiring and developing employees, this will only be wasted if they decide to leave an organisation to receive their desired training elsewhere.
So, to increase engagement from employees, we must highlight the role of talent management, especially surrounding internal mobility, performance management and employee development. If employees see they have an opportunity to grow and learn new skills within their organisation, naturally, they’re more likely to stay in order to do so.
Adopting a transparent approach
These are trying times, and the face-to-face interaction of the office has suddenly been replaced by back-to-back video calls and the dreaded Zoom fatigue. As such, direct visibility which often ignites enthusiasm is more difficult to achieve than ever. As a result, it’s easy to make employees feel pigeonholed within certain teams, divisions, roles or functions, without having the opportunity to show what they might be able to contribute elsewhere.
To rectify this and ensure our people remain engaged despite the challenges of a remote workforce, we need to increase transparency wherever possible. Tracking the necessary skills, capabilities and correct performance data should be at the top of HR teams agendas. So that when new vacancies arise, everyone involved in the recruitment process can pinpoint existing employees for the role, ensuring internal talent is recognised at all times, and in a meaningful way.
According to our research, two out of three employees say it’s easier to find a new role elsewhere rather than within their current organisation. Considering the challenge of getting new starters up to speed – especially in a hybrid or remote environment – this initiative seems ludicrous. The reality is that performance data is often siloed, or, in many cases, simply not transparently recorded or shared. In a way, employees become invisible due to a flawed or outdated system that fails to recognise those who can tackle a new role or challenge.
In today’s landscape, however, digital transformation and the acceleration of innovative technologies is quickening like never before. With so many new systems out there, ready to be used to their full potential, there really is no reason why teams are not leveraging this to support our employees. With the correct tools, that can successfully record performance conversations and make analytics available to managers and hiring teams, internal transfers can become effortless. In turn, this will increase employee engagement with employees comforted by the fact their performance is being successfully tracked.
An evolving corporate culture
As a leader, it’s natural to want to hold on to our teams that reflect well on our own management capabilities. Yet discouraging high performing employees from exploring different opportunities within a company is an all too common but inherently wrong practice. Restricting the best talent to a team that doesn’t challenge them will only propel disengagement, and perhaps, trigger a reversed effect where employees begin to lack enthusiasm and proactivity.
Instead, why not encourage the growth and development of our employees? If we are to increase engagement and retention rates, the entire corporate culture must shift so that our leaders are rewarded for producing talent that benefits the company as a whole, as opposed to simply within a particular team.
Looking beyond the pandemic
Within an organisation, employee engagement is a crucial energy source and one that we must nurture and tap in to. So as the workplace continues to evolve, whatever form it may take, we must now consider whether our company culture supports the growth of our employees by making performance visible and ensuring those who are capable of progressing further internally are motivated and empowered to make that step.
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